Ironman success relies on planned military presence
by Eric Johnson
As the ESi Ironman 70.3 Augusta triathlon draws closer, the various preparedness meetings are growing more urgent.
Last week, Randy DuTeau, events manager for the Augusta Sports Council, had a meeting with officials at Fort Gordon to coordinate their involvement in the race.
Fort Gordon will provide course marshals for the race. Hundreds of course marshals.
“We met with Major George Bratcher and took him along with the public affairs officer out on the course and went through the details of pick up and where we’re going to stage and how we’re going to provide food,” DuTeau said. “This meeting was the first step in the process.”
Even though they are consummate professionals, DuTeau said, there is still always the fear of the unknown.
“They kind of approach it the same way that I try to approach it, in that we overplan it,” he said. “It’s better to overplan and try to account for things than to try to say we’ve done this before, which means they don’t have the peace of mind because they’ve not done it before.”
The course marshals work in support of law enforcement, mostly at intersections and along the open stretches of road.
“We’re really fortunate with that arrangement because we’ve got 56 miles of open road,” DuTeau said. “It’s not as easy to manage as a six and a half mile circuit in downtown Augusta.”
DuTeau requests 250 service members, and that’s usually what he gets.
“Being able to get them as one big group has given the race peace of mind and is also one of the things we continually hear about year after year from the athletes,” he said. “They just think it’s impressive. It gives them peace of mind and I think it gives the race a much better look.”
The marshals also serve as the eyes and ears of the race.
“We’ve got a crack medical team, but with 56 miles of road, there’s no way you can have eyes everywhere, especially when you have long spans of road with no intersections,” he said. “If somebody had a crash, you’d have somebody there to call the medical coordinator. Or if somebody has a mechanical problem, then you can get in touch with support.”
Not that their traditional volunteers aren’t a crack bunch, but the military brings a sense of mission.
“Everyone that we have comes in with a lot of enthusiasm and everyone wants to do their job to the best of their ability,” he said. “The thing that’s just really amazing about the military is that, even though they’re wearing their volunteer shirts, they’re usually wearing their fatigue pants or their hats, so you can tell it’s a military presence. It automatically commands respect.”
That, he said, and they’re unfailingly polite, which makes a difference when you have anxious drivers or drivers who are maybe lost or late for church because of all the activity.
“Also, they have a sense of urgency, so if it starts to rain, providing it’s not hazardous outside, they’re not going to leave,” he said.
The two-hour drive of the course following the 45-minute meeting was meant to give the leadership a general idea of the area so that, by the next meeting, they’ll be able to visualize what they’re talking about.
“The next meeting, we’ll have a bigger group,” he said. “And it will take several hours because it will involve sitting down and looking at the map and explaining, because now you’re getting into the fine details with the individuals who are actually going to be managing the specific sections of the road.”
That will be followed by more driving around the course.
“When you’re looking at the map, you’re looking at an 8.5 by 11 piece of paper, but when you actually start driving the course, you’re like — wow, look at that.”
And when it comes to preparation, DuTeau returned to the sense of responsibility they all feel having 3,200 athletes competing.
“It’s one thing if you don’t get the field chalked in time for a Little League ball game, but in this case, you’re talking people’s lives,” he said. “And if that doesn’t keep you on your toes, I’m not sure anything will.”You Might Also Like: